Friday, October 12, 2012

Ruby Sparks (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway
Ruby Sparks
Granted, this is a film that is easy to make fun of given that it is from the directors of "Little Miss Sunshine" (Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris) and  granted it has enough sticky sweetness for ten solid scenes with the young Abigail Breslin combined with a Jane Fonda cartoon role, this film is a departure (of sorts). 
"Ruby Sparks" is the Woody Allenesque tale of a young writer (Paul Dano) with writer's block who is at his wits end, facing pressure from his publishing agency. One day, after a session with his psychiatrist (Elliott Gould, of course) Calvin, the writer, has a vision of a mysterious but effervescent red haired girl that calls to him.
Her name is Ruby Sparks.
Calvin starts writing like a man possessed.
Then, astonishingly, Ruby appears. Calvin is a bit like Gil in Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris". He is skittish and nervous one minute and bounding with joy the next and even his glasses seem a character in the film.
 Ruby (writer Zoe Kazan) stands in the kitchen in the flesh. She is like a hipster version of  Betty Boop: racy empathetic and almost never rude. Calvin can't believe his luck but his anxiety also increases. What follows is a zany fairy tale romp about the nature of love and control. 
How far should Calvin go since he created his Muse from his own psyche? 
The film is at its best when it centers on the jumpiness of Calvin and his sometimes sensitive, sometimes Svengali-like relations with the inky ingenue Ruby. Paul Dano has good comic timing and in one scene when he jumps up from the sofa with a spastic start, he wonderfully echoes The Woodman himself. Woody Allen's influence is also felt when Ruby is unbearably cloying when the two lovers hold hands: "I miss you already!" Ruby cries, pressing into Calvin's face.
The film loses a bit of its punch when it introduces Annette Bening as an old hippie drippy mom and the rollicking but unconvincing Antonio Banderas as her free-love boyfriend. These scenes are a bit too corny ala "Meet the Parents" and causes the film to lose a bit of its comic tension and its emotion.
However, the chemistry between Dano and Kazan is fizzy and I did like the film for exploring a bit of dark territory as the film progresses.
This is not a particularly deep film but it remains smooth and entertaining, going down like existential carbonation.
I particularly liked "Ruby Sparks'" final scene that points to the quantum mechanics of romance. "Can we start over?" asks a Rubyesque girl.
This is an arresting moment. I just came away wishing for less of a pat ending  and more of a Schrödinger's kitten romance.
There is always more satisfaction  in not knowing.
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